Security for smart and safe cities, including for public spaces (Pre-announcement)

In the cities, public spaces such as malls, open crowded gathering areas and events, and non-restricted areas of transport infrastructures, constitute “soft targets”, that is potential, numerous targets spread across the urban area and subject to “low cost” attacks strongly impacting the citizens. The generation, processing and sharing of large quantities of data in smart cities make urban systems and services potentially more responsive, and able to act upon real-time data. On the one hand, smart cities provide for improving the security of open and crowded areas against threats (incl. terrorist threats) and risks, by leveraging wide networks of detection and prevention capabilities that can be combined with human response to crisis to enhance first responders' actions. On the other hand, the distinct smart technological and communication environments (urban, transport infrastructures, companies, industry) within a smart city require a common cybersecurity management approach.


The security and good operation of a smart and safe city relies on interconnected, complex and interdependent networks and systems: public transportation networks, energy, communication, transactional infrastructure, civil security and law enforcement agencies, road traffic, public interest networks and services.

Such networks provide with an efficient infrastructure for detection resources and "big data" collection. The screening of such data are being used by security practitioners to enhance their capabilities and performances. For instance, crowd protection and the security of public and government buildings can be improved through the identification of threats or of crime perpetrators, and the early detection of dangerous devices or products; first responders may get quicker on site by calculating in real time the shorter possible route to the scene of disaster.

Proposals under this topic should develop and integrate experimentally, in situ, the components of an open platform for sharing and managing information between public service operators and security practitioners of a large, smart city. The proposed pilots should consider how to combine, inter alia:

  • Methods to detect weapons, explosives, toxic substances
  • Systems for video surveillance
  • Methods to identify, and neutralize crime perpetrators whilst minimizing intrusion into crowded areas

In designing the platform, proposals should:

  • involve actively the security actors of the city area, their coordination and governance;
  • solve interoperability issues, and ensure the interconnection and integration of the city smart systems with the systems supporting the security practitioners locally, including through modelling and simulating their interdependence;
  • enhance the security of city smart systems, notably in terms of access control (e.g. with digital security measures such as layered authentication and access), secure communication and data storage, and address their possible misuse by criminals;
  • consider new concepts of operation resulting from novel monitoring methods, data provided by extensive networks of sensors and social media;
  • consider mitigation strategies in the context of a variety of scenarios in order to increase resilience;
  • integrate modules to simulate security incidents, and their consequences;
  • integrate modules to measure the quantitative and qualitative impact of the platform on security;
  • provide for the sharing, consolidation and analysis of multi-sourced data.

The proposals should also address at least one of the following key issues:

  • Simulation, detection and analysis of the additional security threats and risks created through the interconnection of smart systems (e.g. Internet of Things (IoT), in particular those IoT objects used by security practitioners) and smart infrastructures (e.g. smart (government) buildings, smart railways, smart ports, smart factories, smart bridges, smart hospitals, large gathering of people in smart infrastructure) within a smart city;
  • Delivery of a cyber-security framework to ease collaboration across all smart cities stakeholders, from urban planners to infrastructure operators, security practitioners, IT supervisors and providers across smart organizations within the city;
  • Support and implementation of a common approach to securing and managing in a reliable and untamperable manner the data from all the smart infrastructures and systems hosted in a smart city supporting the citizens, the public authorities, the security practitioners, and the urban economy in creating transparent, efficient, accountable cyber-secure data-handling processes, in line with data protection legislation.

Digital security awareness should be integrated into the eco-system of humans, competences, services and solutions which should be able to adapt rapidly to the evolutions of cyber-threats or even to surpass them.

The centre of gravity for technology development with actions funded under this topic is expected to be up to TRL 7 – see General Annex G of the Horizon 2020 Work Programme.

Solutions are to be developed in compliance with fundamental rights, privacy and data protection, especially as the development of big data creates specific challenges. Therefore, full compliance with data protection legislations must be ensured in exploiting big data. Societal aspects (e.g. perception of security, possible effects of technological solutions on societal resilience) have to be taken into account in a comprehensive and thorough manner.

Projects should also foresee activities and envisage resources for cooperating with other projects funded under this topic and with other relevant projects in the field funded by Horizon 2020.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of about EUR 8 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact

  • Creation of dedicated, harmonised, advance cybersecurity solutions for smart cities adopting common approaches with all involved stakeholders (e.g. administrators of smart city/port/transport) balancing their – sometimes conflicting – goals (e.g. urban development, efficiency, growth, competitiveness, resilience).
  • In situ demonstrations of efficient and cost-effective solutions to the largest audience, beyond the project participants.
  • An easier level of integration by developing a holistic cyber-security framework for smart cities that benefits all smart infrastructures hosted within it (e.g. smart buildings, smart ports, smart railways, smart logistics).
  • IoT ecosystems (rather than distributed IoT infrastructures) built adopting common approaches in their cybersecurity management, achieving economies of scale (e.g. avoiding duplication of efforts in the analysis of IoT data, selection of cybersecurity controls).
  • Novel concepts of operations taking account of mutiple, heterogeneous data sources and the social media.
  • Novel tools and systemic approaches to protect citizens against threats to soft targets in a Smart City.

Delegation Exception Footnote

This topic complements other smart cities actions, including those under the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities.

Cross-cutting Priorities

  • Contractual Public-Private Partnerships (cPPPs)
  • Cybersecurity
  • Socio-economic science and humanities
Application date
Social sciences : Information and Communication Sciences, Demography, Gender studies, Identities, gender and sexuality, Law, Pedagogic & Education Research, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences, Sociology
Humanities : Anthropology & Ethnology
Other : Computer science, Physics, mathematics and engineering